Consistent Haindl reaps St Francis Bay victory as reward

Alex Haindl underlined his 2018 consistency on the Sunshine Tour on Saturday with a come-from-behind one-stroke victory in the Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at St Francis Links.

He carded a final-round of five-under-par 67 to finish on 12-under for the 54-hole tournament, just ahead of 36-hole leader Neil Schietekat, having started four shots back. Schietekat shared second place with Jake Roos.

“This is a golf course I’ve always wanted to win on, so this is a little bit more special,” said Haindl. “I played nicely the whole week, and I’ve been playing quite well the whole season, so it’s good to get a win in.”

The victory caps a year in which he has already finished inside the top 10 six times, including in a share of second at the season-opening Zanaco Masters in Zambia in April, and in last month’s Sun City Challenge.

“The win proves to me that I am working on the right things and my game is moving in the right direction,” said the player who perhaps works harder on his game than just about anyone on tour. “I just need to keep on going in that direction. That’s the important thing.”

His victory started looking likely during his front nine during which he made four birdies in a row from the fourth to the seventh. Birdies on 12 and 13 took him three shots clear of the chasing pack at that stage, and he seemed set to cruise home.

However, he missed two short birdie chances in 16 and 17, and then dumped his approach to 18 in a green-side bunker and was unable to get up and down for a closing par.

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“I started kind of slowly,” he said. “I kept giving myself chances and missing putts, and I ended up obviously making a few. I missed a two-footer for birdie on eight which hurt a bit. But I kept going and gave myself chances.

“Down the stretch, I hit the ball really nicely and gave myself quite a few chances, but nothing went in. On 16, I didn’t hit a great putt. On 17, I had a three-footer and the thing swung about two cups, which was unbelievable.

It was unfortunate on 18, but that’s okay. I hit a great approach and the wind just died on me.”

Schietekat’s push for victory ran aground on the rocks of a double-bogey on the par-three fourth and a bogey on the par-five sixth, while Roos had bogeys on two and four to blame for not getting up for the win.

For Haindl, the victory means a climb to second on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit behind the early front-runner Justin Harding, who is concentrating on his new-found successful Asian Tour career.

But it was also about the pleasure of playing for Haindl. “I had fun this week,” he said. “I played with Neil in the first two rounds and we always enjoy playing together. We usually play quite well together too! It was unlucky for him on the last hole.”

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